2014-15 District Teacher of the Year Recipients

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Sarah Loomis

DoDEA Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year for Kaiserslautern District, DoDEA Europe
Kaiserslautern Elementary School, Germany

Sarah Loomis is an Educational Technologist at Kaiserslautern Elementary School. She has been teaching for 21 years and is in her fourth year at KES.

Mrs. Loomis holds a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Seattle City University. Her professional credentials are in Elementary Education from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.

Loomis believes that students need to experience learning from a variety of perspectives. She believes that as teachers, it is essential to build problem based learning environments that are engaging, that allow for risk-taking, that are goal oriented and are relevant to real world.

Sarah and her husband enjoy trekking and skiing in the mountains, exploring the cities of Europe and camping during the summer.



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Sarah McKinney
Teacher of the Year for Okinawa District, DoDEA Pacific
Kadena High School, Okinawa

Ms. Sarah McKinney is an English and Literature teacher at Kadena High School where she has taught for the past seven years. Ms. McKinney joined DoDEA in 2001; prior to her tenure at KDHS, she taught Language Arts at Lester Middle School in Okinawa and at Seoul American Middle School in Korea. She has also served as the DoDEA Pacific Instructional Support Specialist for English/Language Arts. Ms. McKinney began her teaching career in Kansas City.

Ms. McKinney earned a bachelor’s degree in English and German from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Upon completing her education degree, she served as a DoDEA student teacher in Baumholder, Germany. From there she earned a Master of Arts in English from the University of St. Thomas, where she was a fellowship recipient.

Creating an engaged and dynamic classroom is at the core of Mrs. McKinney’s philosophy. Ms. McKinney brings learning to life and links literature to its social context though simulations, fieldtrips and collaboration with colleagues.

Ms. McKinney is also an active member in the local community and enjoys supporting various causes through taking part in 5Ks and 10Ks both on base and in the local community. She and her husband, also a Kadena High School teacher, are the proud parents of a 3-year-old daughter.


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Daisy Alegre-Cruz
Teacher of the Year for Isles District, DoDEA Europe
Lakenheath High School, United Kingdom

Mrs. Daisy Alegre-Cruz is a Career Practicum, Advanced Placement Psychology, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher at Lakenheath High School. She has been teaching for 8 years, with 4 of those years in DoDEA.

Alegre-Cruz double-majored in Psychology and Human Resource Development from Mount Olive College in North Carolina and received her teaching preparation in Secondary Social Studies from the University of Guam. She obtained her Master’s in Education from Wayland Baptist University. For the last four years, she has also been working toward a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

Mrs. Alegre-Cruz believes in preparing students for college and career success and utilizes the Rigor and Relevance Framework for teaching and assessing as well as AVID strategies to achieve that goal.

Alegre-Cruz is a registered yoga teacher, is a wife and mother of an 11-month old daughter.


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Katie Biggs
Teacher of the Year for Korea District, DoDEA Pacific
Seoul American Elementary School, Korea

Mrs. Katie Biggs is a Kindergarten teacher at Seoul American Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea. She has taught in DoDEA schools for twelve years.

Biggs earned a bachelor degree in Exercise Science, Health and Wellness from Abilene Christian University and her teaching degree from Southwestern Texas State University.

Welcoming a room full of children, challenging them to become critical thinkers, leading them to successes, and watching them grow as lifelong learners and valuable members of our 21st Century society are what fuels her daily teachings. Ms. Biggs teaches to the whole child and strives for every child to walk out the door feeling successful, loved, safe, valued and inspired.

Mrs. Biggs is a military spouse, married to LTC Bradley S. Biggs and has two children.  


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Lota Bryans
Teacher of the Year for South Carolina/Fort Stewart/DoDDS Cuba, DoDEA Americas
Patrick L. Kessler Elementary School, Georgia

Lota Bryans is a Reading Instructional Support Teacher for grades 3rd through 6th at Patrick L. Kessler Elementary school in Fort Stewart, Georgia. She has taught for fourteen years with DoDEA and an additional two years in Guam Public Schools.

Bryans received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work, magna cum laude, from Mercer University, formerly Tift College. She holds a professional credential in K-8 education from the University of Guam, as well as a Master of Education with a Specialty in Leadership from the University of Portland.

Bryans believes that teachers must collaborate with fellow teachers and administrators to actively shape a network of professionals who adhere to emerging standards and research in order to grow as educators and meet the complex issues and evolving realities of 21st century education. Educators must not isolate themselves behind classroom doors, but draw on the strengths from within an active professional learning community to prepare students for the 21st Century.

Bryans and her husband enjoy family, friends, world travel, and living on the Georgia coast.


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Lynn Irwin
Teacher of the Year for Georgia-Alabama District, DoDEA Americas
Ft. Rucker Primary School, Alabama

Lynn Irwin is a first grade teacher at Ft. Rucker Primary School in Ft. Rucker, AL. She has been in education for 25 years and has had the opportunity to serve active duty military families and their children for the past 10 years.

Ms. Irwin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University Montgomery, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Troy University Dothan, an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership and Technology from Auburn University, and is currently pursuing a PhD. in Educational Leadership and Technology from Auburn University.

Ms. Irwin believes that educators have a responsibility to their students and colleagues to be lifelong learners in order to stay on the cutting edge of newly emerging best practices. She also believes that it is incumbent upon educators to prepare all students for success in the 21st Century by providing them with challenging, engaging, and real world learning experiences.

Lynn is married to a retired U. S. Army aviator and has two daughters. The Irwin family enjoys traveling together and spending time at the lake.


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Jessica McKelvey
Teacher of the Year for Kentucky District, DoDEA Americas
Pierce Elementary School, Kentucky

Jessica McKelvey is a third grade inclusion teacher at Pierce Elementary School. She has taught for seven years, including nearly four years in the Fort Knox Community Schools of the Kentucky District.

Ms. McKelvey received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis of language and literacy from California State University, Long Beach. She also holds a Master of Education degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently working on a mobile technology certificate from the University of San Diego.

An avid learner with a penchant for breaking boundaries, McKelvey believes that teachers have the responsibility of making curriculum come alive and connect with the real world all while molding active, responsible citizens.

Her experience includes serving as a TEFL Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, shaping at-risk young adults as the district-wide GED educator in Salem, VA, teaching English as a Second Language in a variety of environments, and conducting Health & Safety classes as an instructor for the American Red Cross.


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Kelly Melvin
Teacher of the Year for NC- Ft. Bragg District, DoDEA Americas
Albritton Middle School, North Carolina

Kelly Melvin has spent her entire DoDEA teaching career at Albritton Middle School, teaching Physical Education and Health for 23 years. She currently teaches 6th-8th grades and spent many years teaching 9th grade as well.

Mrs. Melvin received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Methodist University in 1990 and her Masters of Arts in Physical Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2000.

Melvin believes that in order for educators to create learners who will think, achieve, and care about the world, we must be willing to understand that what has worked in the past may no longer work for us in the future. She believes that the unique environment of today’s learner involves understanding and teaching the whole child.

In addition to teaching, Kelly Melvin coaches and officiates volleyball and softball and loves to travel. She and her husband have 2 daughters and a son.


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Kristina C. Muñoz
Teacher of the Year for Mediterranean District, DoDEA Europe
Aviano Elementary School, Italy

Kristina Muñoz is currently a 3rd grade teacher at Aviano Elementary School. She has been teaching for 13 years, nine of which have been spent serving students in DoDEA schools. The remaining years were spent teaching in public schools located in Georgia and Kansas.

Muñoz is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education, and continued her education at the University of Kansas, earning a Master of Science degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Gifted Education.

Muñoz is an ambitious teacher whose goal has been to focus on changing students’ lives and opportunities for learning in a variety of school settings around the world.

She currently resides in Aviano, Italy with her husband, son and dog (Dugan).


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Donna J. Rhodes
Teacher of the Year for Guam District, DoDEA Pacific
Andersen Elementary School, Guam

Ms. Donna Rhodes is a first grade teacher at Andersen Elementary School. Ms. Rhodes joined DoDEA in 1997. She has taught first grade for 20 years; four years with the Guam public school system and 16 years in her current position.

Ms. Rhodes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from California State University, Fresno and completed her teacher certification courses at the University of Guam. She is currently working on a Masters of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Mathematics from Concordia University, Portland.

Rhodes believes to be an effective teacher one must view each child as an individual, discover their needs, and then create a plan to help them succeed.

Ms. Rhodes spends her free time with family, reading, and honing her skills as a nature photographer.


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Jeff Sparling
Teacher of the Year for Japan District, DoDEA Pacific
The Sullivans School, Japan

Jeff Sparling is a 3rd grade teacher at The Sullivans School in Yokosuka Japan. He has been teaching for 12 years, including 10 years for DoDEA ranging from the 3rd and 5th grades.

Mr. Sparling holds a Bachelors of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Northern Arizona University and a Master's of Science in Education Leadership from Capella University. He is professionally certified in Elementary Education K-8, and Special Education K-12 from DoDEA and the state of Arizona.

Mr. Sparling facilitates a responsive classroom community, providing students a challenging academic curriculum which incorporates whole brain teaching style, incites curiosity and humor, and fosters social-emotional growth. He creates positive social interactions between students and adults to generate respect, trust, build confidence, and improve overall student performance.

Mr. Sparling’s wife is a School Psychologist and they have two daughters. They enjoy traveling, hiking, and celebrating the adventures of life with family and friends.  


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Louise Thompson
Teacher of the Year for Bavaria District, DoDEA Europe
Ansbach Elementary School, Germany

Louise Thompson is a 1st/2nd grade multiage STEAM teacher at Ansbach Elementary School. She has been teaching for a little over 20 years and has taught every grade from pre-k through 6th. This is her 14th year with DoDDS.

Louise holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a certification in Early Childhood Education from Towson State University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix.

Louise believes that in order to help all students achieve their potential we need to start looking at their individual data and encourage them to set achievable goals. If we focus on students’ growth instead of their grades, we will help them see their successes as well as their challenges.

Louise and her husband have taught together since their days in rural Alaska. They are the proud parents of three military children. They have a daughter in the Air Force and two sons in the Navy. Louise is also a Girl Scout leader. She has a Brownie Troop and a Junior/Cadette Troop. She enjoys working with the girls on various community projects and badges. She especially enjoys going on trips with them. They have gone to London, Paris, Venice and Switzerland.

In her spare time, Louise enjoys traveling, quilting and reading.


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Maryellen Tissandier
Teacher of the Year for NC- Camp Lejeune District, DoDEA Americas
Tarawa Terrace Elementary School, North Carolina

Maryellen Tissandier is a 4th grade teacher at Tarawa Terrace Elementary School. She has been teaching for 4 years with DoDEA and has taught both 3rd and 4th grade. Before beginning her career with DoDEA, she was a teacher assistant with Onslow County Schools.

Ms. Tissandier holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies K-6 from Western Governor’s University. She is currently attending Liberty University to complete a Master’s in Instructional Technology and Online Learning.

Being a part of the military community and a military spouse, Ms. Tissandier is able to share her experiences with her students and they always leave a mark in her heart. Ms. Tissandier strongly believes in the use of technology in the classroom and uses it as a tool to help meet the needs of every child in her classroom so they can succeed.

Ms. Tissandier is married to a Marine and they have one son. As a family they enjoy outside activities and spending time with family and friends.


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Tricia Willis
Teacher of the Year for New York/Virginia/Puerto Rico District, DoDEA Americas
West Point Middle School, New York

Ms. Tricia Willis teaches science and health to 6th-8th grade students at West Point Middle School. She has thirteen years of teaching experience where nine of them have been dedicated to DoDEA’s West Point Middle School.

After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Old Dominion University in 1988, Willis gained experience in forensic chemistry. Following a Master of Arts in Teaching from Cameron University in 1997, Willis brought her passion and expertise to the classroom fostering a love for problem solving with real-life applications. She values the needs of the whole child and equips each learner with 21st Century tools.

Ms. Willis was a military spouse for over twenty years and today, Tricia is an active community member who maintains ties with the extended military family, STEM partners (e.g., USMA, Mid-Hudson Technical Societies, eCybermission), and local service organizations.